Do we need ostracism?

GreekOstracism

Would something like this work here? Or would it be too much of an online driven witch hunt?

Definition

Ostracism was a political process used in 5th-century BCE Athens whereby those individuals considered too powerful or dangerous to the citywere exiled for 10 years by popular vote. Some of the greatest names in Greek history fell victim to the process, although, as the votes were often not personal but based on policies, many were able to resume politics after they had served the statuary 10 years away from their home city. Nevertheless, ostracism was the supreme example of the power of the ordinary people, the demos, to combat abuses of power in the Athenian democracy.

The Process

The decision whether or not to ostracise individuals was taken once each year. First, the decision to hold a vote on ostracism was presented to the popular assembly of Athens, the ekklesia, which met on the hill of Pnyx. There up to 6,000 male citizens voted to proceed or not. If agreed, a special meeting known as the ostracophoria was organised in the agora on a particular day in the eighth prytany in the year (which was divided into ten such units). The voting was supervised by the executive council of 500 (boule) and the 9 highest administrative officials, the archons (archontes). Citizens voted against a particular candidate by scratching his name on a piece of pottery, an ostrakon. Voting was done anonymously. Officials known as phylai then collected the ostraka and made sure that nobody voted twice.

For the result of an ostracism to be effective a minimum of 6,000 votes had to be cast. Then the officials announced which individual had amassed the most votes and that person was ostracised, that is in the original meaning of the term, exiled. There was no possibility of appeal against the decision. The man was given 10 days to organise his affairs and then he must leave the city and never return to the region of Attica for a period of 10 years. Interestingly, the individual did not lose their citizenship and nor was their personal property confiscated.

Abuses

The exile was not a permanent disgrace as some individuals did return after their sentence was served and continued in public life. This perhaps indicates that votes were very often cast against the policies of an individual rather than them personally and that voting against one individual gave support to their rival and his policies.

However, there must surely have been cases when, without any formal charges or speeches, the assembly was swayed by popularism and voted against individuals without good reason. Plutarch in his Aristidesbiography famously recounts the intention of one assembly member to vote against Aristides simply because he is fed up with hearing the politician constantly referred to as ‘The Just’.

Another suspicious abuse is the finding of 190 ostraka in a well near the acropolis of Athens, all with the name of Themistocles scratched on them but done so by recognisably few hands.

http://www.ancient.eu/Ostracism/

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7 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  July 12, 2017

    What would be the point ? Exile from a given place now doesn’t mean isolation.

    Reply
  2. Ohariu wouldn’t have been without its MP for some time if we had had this back in the late 1990’s…..

    Reply
  3. Tipene

     /  July 12, 2017

    No, we need representative recall, which also dates back to Athenian democracy:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recall_election

    Reply
  4. Trumpenreich

     /  July 12, 2017

    “Would something like this work here?”

    Only men could vote in Athens democracy, we need to try this again also, it would solve a lot of issues and reinvigorated our democracy.

    Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  July 13, 2017

      It would be interesting to try the opposite with only women having the vote.

      Reply
  5. Sounds all very Amish to moi

    Reply

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